Letter from Oliver Johnson to Rowland T. Robinson
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Jenner Township, Somerset Co., Pa January 27, 1837
My Dear Friend, I have not forgotten my promise to write You, though I have not until now found a favorable opportun- nity to redeem my pledge. I am induced to write you at [underline] this time [/underline], on account of circumstances which I shall proceed, without further introduction, to communicate. If you will look at the map of the U. S. suspended in your north room, (if not lost in “a case of immersion”!) you will perceive that this county lies very near Maryland. I am now perhaps 30 miles from the line. There are in this region at all times no small number of runaway slaves, but they are generally caught unless they proceed farther north. I saw yesterday in this township a stout man who ran away from Maryland. He is 28 years old, and appeared to me to be an honest, like ly man. He says he was sold with several others to a soul-driver for $1,000; consequently he must have been considered very valuable. When he came here (some time in December I think it was) he was destitute of decent clothing, and unable to proceed, as he intended when he left Maryland, to Canada. A man in this place by the name of William C. Griffith, the son of a Friend, who has oftend rendered assistance to runa- ways, kindly offered to keep him until Spring. A reward of $200.00 has been offered for his apprehension, and it is not considered safe for him to remain here after winter has gone by, as search will no doubt be made for him. I was so well pleased with his appearance, and with the account given of him by Griffith, that I could
not help thinking he would [strikethrough] make [/strickthrough] be a good man for you to hire. Mr Griffith says that he is very trust- worthy, of a kind disposition, and knows how to do all most all kinds of farm work. He is used to teaming, and is very good to manage horses. He says that he could beat any man in the neighborhood where he lived, in Maryland, at mowing, cradling, or pitching. He has intended going to Canada in the spring but says he would prefer to stay in the U. S., if he could be safe. I have no doubt he would be perfectly safe with you. Would you not like to have him [strikethrough] come [/strickthrough] go to you in the spring? I fear that, if he goes to Canada, he may fall into bad company; but if he is under your guardianship, I think he may become a useful man. The project struck my own mind so pleas- urably that I resolved to write you on the subject. It will be a great way for him to walk, but not worse than going to Canada. He can be furnished with the names of abolitionists on whom to call upon the way, and I think may reach Vermont in safety. I wish you would think of the case and write me your conclusions. If you say “let him come” I will endeavor to make the best pos- sible arrangements in regard to the journey. Please write me [underline] immediately [/underline] to the care of Elizar Wright Jr. New York, and he will forward it to me, wherever I may be. It is so uncertain where I shall go after the State Convention, that I know not [strikethrough] how you [/strikethrough] where a letter would reach me.
You will observe that this is not the field
originally assigned to me. The change was made to accommodate an Agent who resided in the Southern part of New York. You will see in the Emancipator, I presume, every thing concerning my labors which is worth knowing. The people here are generally very ignorant and nothing suits them but the “slam-bang style” of lecturing. They have to be moved through their sympathies, rather than their intellect or judg- ment. It is not the manner which suits me, and I find it hard to adapt myself to the habits of the people. However, I hope my labors have been attended with a tolerable measure of success. I am now waiting for the stage to take Me to Harrisburgh [sic] to Convention. I antici[loss] an interesting meeting. How it would rejoice my heart to be with you at your approaching anniversary! I hope to find time at Harrisburgh [sic] to write a letter to friend Murray, to be com- municated at your meeting.
There are a thousand things, dear friend,
which I should be glad to write but time and room will not permit. I often think of you and your dear family, and of the numerous acts of kindness which I have received at your hands. I feel anxious to hear from you, particularly concerning your health. Excuse the haste of this letter, and present my love to all your family. I am yours affectionately, Oliver Johnson R. T. Robinson
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